Tuesday, September 24, 2013

PBS' Genealogy Roadshow - Good Format But What's The Back Story

PBS launched it's new genealogy based show yesterday called "Genealogy Roadshow." As an avid and interested genealogist with more than 30 years of experience plus a bunch of courses and conferences under my belt, I considered this to be 'must see' viewing for me.

The 'Roadshow' title immediately suggested to me the lines of folks seen on The Antiques Roadshow, each hauling an old family treasure in the hope that an expert would provide good news about the treasure's remarkable value and place in history. The Genealogy Roadshow doesn't disappoint - there are the long lines of folks seen outside the show's venue but, rather than carrying family antique treasures, they come with family stories and questions about relationships and connections.

D. Joshua Taylor and Kenyatta Berry serve as the experts who present the genealogical findings that answer the family history questions on the show. I think they both do an admirable job of presenting and explaining the genealogy evidence found through what had to be an exhausting amount of research. Both Josh and Kenyatta also do, in my opinion, a even better job in representing the genealogical community. They are not just clever but they also have a sense of humour and an ability to communicate a lot of information concisely, perhaps too concisely.

On the critical side, the show covers a lot of stories in it's fast paced format. Perhaps a few less stories and more depth would work better? 

While viewing the show, I was left puzzled as to how the guests were selected. It was clear that there had been some preliminary event when potential guests would have offered their family history queries however if I didn't know what I know about genealogy, I might have been left with the impression that the census records, city directories, archived letters would just appear on online.

That certainly seemed to be the impression of New York Times television reviewer Neil Genzlinger whose tepid review of the show appeared on September 22, 2013. In his review, Genzlinger states, "No frequent-flier miles are racked up by the guests on "Genealogy Roadshow." Mostly, its experts just show them computer screens full of census pages and such (research they could have done themselves with a little search-engine savvy)."

Now I know where I've gone wrong. I just need a little search engine savvy. I'm sorry to disappoint Neil but I think I have more than a little search engine savvy in addition to a pretty good idea of the type of records to look for and how to read them but still I can't find all the answers to some of my family's questions and mysteries.

"Genealogy Roadshow" might benefit from spending a little bit of time looking at the back story, that is the research process used to uncover the answers to the puzzles being solved for the on-air guests. For example, how did an unknown first cousin of a woman inquiring about the father she didn't know, just happen to be in Tennessee in order to step out from a group of onlookers with a two inch thick album of photos and mementos specially prepared for the occasion. 

"Genealogy Roadshow" succeeds in showing that answers are possible but I think the show needs to do more to explain how to make possible a reality.

What were your first impressions of the show?

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Faulkner Lineage - from Ellen to Edmond

In my last post, I included the photo below of Ellen standing beside the gravestone of her 7X great grandfather Edmond Faulkner, the earliest of Ellen's ancestors to leave Europe and settle in the New World.

Edmond left England around 1639 and settled in Massachusetts. He co-founded Andover, Massachusetts and was a founding member of the first church in Andover. Edmond died in Andover in 1687.

The following is Ellen's ancestral line back to Edmond:

1. Ellen Louise Wagner m. Ian Hadden

2. Carl Francis Wagner (1917-1994) m. Olive Theresa Evelyn Latimer (1920-1997)
3. Charlotte Marion 'Lottie' Faulkner (1890-1977) m. Louis Jacob Gordon Wagner (1886-1968)
4. Gilbert Wellington Faulkner (1856-1932) m. Sarah Blair (1864-1898)
5. Francis Dwight Faulkner (1811-1872) m. Eleanor Ann Kimmerly (1821-1896)
6. Sylvester Faulkner (1780-1863) m. Mary 'Polly' Cram (1781-1858)
7. Peter Faulkner (1743-1829) m. Chloe Cram (1750-1840)
8. Timothy Faulkner (1704- abt. 1746) m. Deborah Farnum (1702-?)
9. John Faulkner (1654-1706) m. Sarah Abbott (1660-1723)
10. Edmond Faulkner (1624-1687) m. Dorothy Raymond (abt. 1624-1668)

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Family History Sneaks Into Our Vacation Trip

My wife knows that somehow, in some way, I will find a family history angle to pursue whenever and wherever we go away on a trip.

For the second year in a row, Ellen and I have traveled by car to Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. These 'vacation' trips have been for the primary purpose of attending the annual open house at the Hope for Wildlife animal rescue and rehabilitation centre. We became aware of Hope for Wildlife through a television series about the efforts of it's founder Hope Swinimer and the many volunteers working to rescue, rehabilitate and release Nova Scotia wildlife. We certainly appreciate the great efforts made by these folks to return injured and orphaned animals back to the wild.

This year, we changed our travel plans by choosing a route for the journey that took us through the United States. In past, we have traveled to the Canadian maritime provinces using an all-Canada route.  This year's route allowed us to change the scenery and allowed me the opportunity to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, achieving a tick mark on my 'bucket' list.

Typically, we have driven for two long days to arrive at our maritime destination but now, since both Ellen and I are retired and can take the time, we slowed down and allowed ourselves four or five shorter days of travel by car. This year, the route we selected took us from our starting point in Ontario through New York state, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, back into Canada through New Brunswick and finally Nova Scotia.

On the second night of our trip, we stayed in Lexington, Massachusetts. I noticed on our drive there that many of the names of the towns we passed were connected in some way to Ellen's ancestors, her roots running deep in the New England states. At our hotel that night I used our iPad with the RootsMagic database app along with the Google maps application to locate the cemetery in North Andover, Massachusetts where Ellen's 7X great grandfather, Edmond Faulkner, is buried.

Using the location information, I programmed my GPS unit to direct us the next morning to about where the cemetery ought to be. So there we were, at the start of our third day on the road, standing in the Old North Parish Burying Ground.

There was only one way to find the grave of Edmond Faulkner - walk the cemetery, checking the headstone inscriptions as we went. Fortunately, this cemetery is not too large and within about ten or fifteen minutes, I found the gravestone for Edmond. 

Edmond Faulkner died in 1687. The headstone that now marks his grave was erected in 1905, I'm assuming as a replacement for a thinner, likely weather faded stone that was originally in place. The current gravestone is thick and heavy, bearing a bronze plaque that reads (my transcription):

To The Memory Of
Who was born in Kingsclear, England.
He came to America and settled 
in Andover.
He was one of the founders of the
first church in Andover in 1645.
Died January 18, 1687.
Erected by descendants of the
seventh generation.
In 1905 (this latter date is chiseled into the stone below the bronze plaque).

I still don't know the names of my 7X great grandparents but Ellen is more fortunate. Here she is at the grave of her 7X great grandfather Edmond Faulkner.